Well, we're in the hat for the next round, to be drawn at some time completely inconvenient for domestic fans but great for the sponsors and whichever random former player we'd all forgotten about who is lucky enough to get a freebie to the Far East. For long periods it was close, but Gooch's late blast won it 2-1.
As it was a special occasion, we had the posh bus, complete with cushions embroidered with " every cloud has a silver lining" around the card-table area at the back. There's a first. Carlisle had recommended the pubs designated away friendly, but as one was called "The Magpie" we set our hearts on the rugby club.
Traffic on the Western Bypass put paid to that plan, so for the second consecutive away game it was straight into the ground - this is getting ridiculous -with my "preadult" ticket. No, I've no idea either.
Brunton Park is as gloriously ramshackle as ever, and Olga the fox (who I presumed had drowned a few years back, but who I’ve been seeing in the same spot since the early 70s) took up her usual place on the centre spot. It must be a new one, as this version is lying down, where previous ones had been susceptible to blowing over. I remember one doing that and Ian Porterfield turning it over with is toe, as if to see if it were really dead. Anyway, someone eventually, and rather unceremoniously, tucked her/it under their arm and took it/her away so we could get started. There was a well-observed minute's applause for the home side's former captain Bill Green, who passed away recently. A proper centre half, as I remember.
Kicking to the left of our section, we lined up:
Matthews Papy O"Shea Oviedo
Gooch Gibson Ndong Love
Actually, Gooch pushed forward, and. Khazri sort of played across the field between midfield and attack, and almost opened the scoring very early on when, after a swift attack, he clipped a shot inches wide.
Another decent move set up Ndong near the edge of the box, but a home defender got in the the way of the low shot to give us a corner on our right. When it dropped in the box, Asoro got in a shot that was blocked, but he fired the rebound wide.
Carlisle were aiming their big forwards at every opportunity, with crosses coming in from both sides, meaning plenty of aerial work for O"Shea and Papy - which they generally did well.
A slack pass from Matthews, after several neat exchanges on halfway had the visiting fans almost shouting "ole", allowed Carlisle to break, but Ruiter did well to keep it out with his feet. Carlisle kept up the pressure, this time forcing Ruiter to tip over a fierce shot from distance.
Back at the other end, Oviedo helped the ball down the left to find Gooch. Our fave USA soccer guy had plenty to do, but wriggled to the by-line and fired in a low cross that Love put away nicely as he arrived in the centre of the goal. Gerrinn! Good goal, well worked.
Despite the home side being lively and trying to get forward as much as possible, we should really have gone further ahead when Ndong popped a ball through the middle for Asoro to outpace the defence, but he shot left across the keeper rather than to his right, and an outstretched leg meant that all we got was a corner.
The number of times Carlisle got down the flanks to cross, or did so from deep, meant more work than there should have been for our central defence – against Carlisle, man, ha’way! - but we held firm. A single minute was added, presumably for the time it took their centre forward to pick himself up after being clattered by Papy and Ruiter as all three went for one of those pesky crosses.
1-0, and another 45 minutes to build on that - with Vaughan and McGeady on the bench, we had options to change things around.
Both sides started with the same eleven, and it was the men in blue who got on top rather than us build on our lead. For some reason, Khazri seemed to lose both his head and his heart after a decent first 45, and was booked for a pretty silly tackle. Another ball into our box saw Papy, who’d not done badly at all defensively, flatten their forward with an aerial challenge that few of our fans moaned about being deemed a foul, despite the amount dubious offside given against us. Ruiter was down sharply to his right to stop the penalty, but our defenders were slow to react and the loose ball was thumped home. 1-1, and looking shaky.
While a few of us had been expecting Khazri to be replaced to a) prevent him being sent off and b) give McGeady a chance, it was Love and Aroso who made way for Vaughan and Kone, giving us the edge in the air. Vaughan was a target it was worth firing a high ball towards, and unlike Gooch and Aroso, he was able to at least compete for that sort of thing. Kone beefed things up at the back. Papy went to left back when Oviedo was replaced by McGeady, and the sight of him bursting down the wing raised a few eyebrows – Micky Gray he aint. Vaughan was chasing everything, with one run in particular seeing him head the ball off a defender’s raised boot, shoulder charge another out of the way, then go down in a heap as a third eventually got in a challenge. It’s a while since we’ve had a forward with such scant regard for his personal safety, and the goals will surely come with that sort of attitude. McGeady was doing his usual stuff down the left, all jinks and bodyswerves, and a few dangerous crosses.
We were beginning to check the Carabao Rule Book for the necessity for extra time when the ball was played out to Gooch on our right, he swapped passed, then cut across the edge of the box and fired a left-footer low into the far corner. Gerrinnn again! That should do it.
There was still time for Ndong to get booked for what Carlisle claimed was a high challenge but what looked like a firm tackle, and Vaughan for virtually rugby tackling their man deep in our own half in the dying seconds. A McGeady cross, after he’d skinned the fullback and then cut back onto his right, caused confusion, and Vaughan surprised us all with an overhead kick as the ball dropped -but it flew just off target.Three subs a side, and the backchat that followed Ndong’s yellow meant that five added minutes were played, in which Carlisle shouted for another penalty when Kone came out on top in another shoulder-charging competition in which there was only ever going to be one winner. No way, Jose, as they say in Cumberland.
A win’s a win, and in the cup that’s all that matters. Well, it’s all that matters in the league as well, but you know what I mean. It was a long way from convincing against a keen home side who place with pace and are yet another example of how fast and furious the game can be outside the Prem.
Man of the Match? O’Shea has probably never headed the ball as many times in a game, and add that to the fact the he kept Papy under control, apart from the obvious aberration, means he had a canny evening. Ruiter made a couple of good stops to confirm that he’s a better than decent keeper. Gooch kept working up and down the field, waited patiently for his chance, and when it came, took it very well. A goal and an assist means he gets my vote.
Keep the Faith
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